Arizona Diamondbacks – La Russa accepts lesser role

Tony La Russa (l) (Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports)
Tony La Russa (l) (Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports) /

Tony La Russa, the chief baseball office of the Arizona Diamondbacks, is now in an advisory role

Fallout from the disastrous season of the Arizona Diamondbacks persists.

After dismissing Dave Stewart as the club’s general manager and sending manager Chip Hale packing and on his way, the team’s top decision-makers, general managing partner Ken Kendrick and Derrick Hall, the president, continue to restructure the organization chart and personnel.

After naming Mike Hazen as their new GM this past Monday morning, the stature of Tony La Russa, the team’s Chief Baseball Officer, remained undecided. With a high-profile stature, first as a Hall of Fame manager and then in a substantial decision-making role with the Diamondbacks, La Russa’s overall responsibilities were then addressed and largely cut to ceremonial. Prior to this rearrangement, La Russa was in command of all baseball decisions for the Diamondbacks, and his judgment in signings and matters of personnel came into question.

Now, La Russa assumes the role of de-facto advisor to Hazen, and will likely retain his current title. After making a series of disastrous moves and questionable signings, La Russa’s fingerprints were all over the Diamondbacks 2016 demise.

Admitting on Monday “I’m in the Hall of Fame because of wearing the uniform and not what I did upstairs,” La Russa’s accepted his new role in a humbling and humiliating manner.

Now, he’ll likely traverse the spring training grounds in a golf cart and travel about around the Salt River complex. During this season’s spring training, La Russa was found behind pitcher’s mounds during their early workouts talking with Randy Johnson and others, standing behind the batting cages chatting with Hale, and zipped around with his former pitching coach Dave Duncan, who was brought on in an advisory capability.

After Stewart and Hale were let go, many believed La Russa was next to march to the guillotine. A man who is third among all-time managers in wins and a stellar reputation, the Diamondbacks saved embarrassment from simply firing La Russa. Instead, they let the native of Tampa, Fla. keep his dignity and gently, but firmly, pushed him out of the decision-making process.

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“Given the season we had, and if I was left on my own, I couldn’t live with myself the rest of my like,” he said. “I have 50 years as a teacher in this game, and built credibility and trust. My goal remains the same as always. That’s to be part of a winning front office and part of a championship.”

That’s all changed, and Hazen now has a free reign in structuring the Diamondbacks in his mold. Sure, he will likely run budgets and other financial matters before Kendrick and Hall, but baseball-related decisions will be his.

During his introductory news conference Monday, Hazen said aside from naming a field manager, he would like to tackle the pitching staff. With the highest ERA among all 30 major league teams, three players with double-digit losses (Archie Bradley with nine) and a bullpen which imploded several times, it’s no surprise that Hazen listed a revamped pitching staff as a principal priority.

Related Story: Hazen named new GM

Now, La Russa grudgingly gives up authority and is resigned to that of a figure-head. After making the trade for Shelby Miller and signing Yasmany Tomas and Yoan Lopez to large contracts before they proved their worth, La Russa, some believe, has now stepped into the shadows to the betterment of all.